Let the ocean soothe you to sleep and watch for whales while you sip your morning coffee at this pristine campsite. Ideal for tenters looking for a holiday of relaxation, Ruckle Provincial Park is one of the must-visit parks in all of BC.
I knew going to Ruckle Provincial Park was a gamble. With only a handful of the 78 sites reservable, you have to be as speedy as a ninja to actually get one of the reservable spots online. The rest of us have to arrive and hope we get a spot!
Located in the Southern Gulf Islands on Salt Spring Island, it’s not the most accessible place to get to. Taking a ferry means you have limited other options for camping in case it doesn’t work out. But we thought we’d give it a go.
On a Thursday evening, we arrived at Ruckle Park. And every. single. spot. was full. Immediate panic set in as we scrambled to find another spot at a different campsite, Mowhinna Creek Campground. At the time, it was the only other campground open and we nabbed their last spot.
Luck was on our side that day. Yes, our spot was tiny. Yes, we barely squeezed our four-person tent in there. But we had a place to stay the night!
The next morning, we woke up bright and early so we could get to Ruckle Park before checkout time. I felt like an absolute vulture approaching people packing up their place and asking if I could take it. But honestly, it was the only way.
Sure enough, the place was already full again only an hour after check-out time.
Getting To Ruckle Provincial Park
Situated right between Vancouver Island and the mainland, Salt Spring Island is a great destination for those coming from Victoria or Vancouver.
If taking the ferry in the summer, especially on weekends, the spots fill up fast. We reserved our vehicle weeks in advance and some of the time slots were already full. On the way home, the ferry was completely booked with reservations and wasn’t taking any more vehicles without one.
We did also have a friend that came from Victoria as a walk-on passenger joining us. While you could get around by bike, I wouldn’t recommend relying on public transit to get around the island. So much of the island is discovering the hidden spots.
Yes, it was a bit of a pain getting here and securing a spot, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Ruckle Provincial Park is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. Your campsite is the ocean and every spot has an view of the Swanson Channel.
Rather than woodsy, the area for tents is a grassy meadow amongst the shoreline’s rocks. It makes the campsite feel much beachier and holiday-like than other oceanside campgrounds I’ve been to.
In the morning, we would sip our tea and coffee while watching the ferry boats pass by. It was utter bliss. And on a lazy morning, we would unzip our tent and take in the view via sleeping bag.
I should note that this only applies to the walk-in sites. The few RV sites are all reservable and located in a loop a quick walk to an ocean view.
Each walk-in site is only distinguished by its picnic table. There are no individual fire pits. Instead, campfire rings are available for community use. Outhouses and water taps are a quick walk from all campsites. Since every campsite is oceanside, you don’t get much privacy from your neighbours. However, there’s still quite a bit of space between sites as compared to other walk-in locations.
The walk-in from parking, however, can be quite far for some of the walk-in sites so you want to make sure you get a hold of one of their wheelbarrows to borrow.
Salt Spring Island Activities
Salt Spring Island has plenty to keep you busy for a week-long trip. In town, we would stock up on groceries and get the occasional hot meal when we didn’t want to cook. You have to make sure to visit the Salt Spring Market that takes place every Saturday and features many of the local artisans and growers.
We also took a stop at the Salt Spring Wild Cider House for an afternoon of tastings which I highly recommend, which is also close to town. Another of my must-have activities includes kayaking. There are a few companies you can rent from and enjoy kayaking at the Ganges Harbour.
At Ruckle Provincial Park itself, you can enjoy up to 7 km of shoreline for swimming and other water fun. The park is named after the Ruckle homestead which still stands at the entrance to the park. You can visit the historic buildings and see some of the farm animals who still call it home.
We didn’t have a chance to do much beaching as the weather wasn’t too warm. We also missed out on some of the hiking the island has to offer, but that just means we have an excuse to come back!
Overall Thoughts on Ruckle Provincial Park
If you can secure a reservation, it takes out all of the bad of visiting Ruckle Provincial Park. Otherwise, just make sure you get there as early as possible and reserve your ferry weeks in advance to ensure you get a spot.
I am also disappointed anytime a campground doesn’t offer you your own fire pit and lack of privacy from neighbours, but it’s very common with most walk-in sites in BC.
Overall, the beauty of this spot goes unmatched. I would happily do it all over again just to sit back and let the boats pass by while I search for sightings of seals, otters, and whales.
More on BC Camping:
- Porteau Cove Provincial Park
- Forest Bathing at Golden Ears Provincial Park
- BC Camping Guide: How to Find a Campsite With or Without a Reservation
Written by contributor, Holly Heuver.